In an extended monologue on Tuesday night's edition of "Inside The NBA," TNT commentator Charles Barkley questioned the use of analytics in basketball and fired some shots at Rockets GM Daryl Morey, one of the leading minds in the advanced statistics community.
Barkley, a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and an 11-time All-Star, argued that "analytics is crap" because the NBA is all about talent, that Morey is "one of those idiots," and that proponents of analytics are "a bunch of guys who ain't never played the game [and] they never got the girls in high school."
The discussion broke out after Barkley criticized Houston's defense, which ranks seventh in defensive rating even though starting center Dwight Howard has missed considerable time this season. In response, Morey wrote on Twitter that Barkley was "spewing misinformed, biased vitriol disguised as entertainment."
Barkley minced no words in his extended reply, which is transcribed below.
"[They're the worst team defensively] among teams that are going to make the playoffs. They're awful defensively.
"Just because you've got good stats, doesn't mean you're a good team defense. They're not a good defensive team. They gave up 118 points [in a 127-118 road win over Phoenix earlier in the night]. No good team gives up 118 points.
"I'm not worried about Daryl Morey. He's one of those idiots who believes in analytics. He went out and got James Harden and Dwight Howard, and then he's going to tell me that's analytics? Then he went out and got Trevor Ariza. Then he went out and got Josh Smith.
"I've always believed analytics is crap. I've never mentioned the Rockets as a legitimate contender, because they're not.
"Listen, I wouldn't know Daryl Morey if he walked in this room right now."
Barkley wasn't finished yet.
"Analytics don't work at all. It's just some crap that people who were really smart made up to try to get in the game because they had no talent. Because they had no talent to be able to play, so smart guys wanted to fit in, so they made up a term called analytics. Analytics don't work.
"What analytics did the Miami Heat have? What analytics did the Chicago Bulls have? What analytics do the Spurs have? They have the best players, coaching staffs who make players better. Like I say, the Rockets sucked for a long time. So, they went out and paid James Harden a lot of money. Then they went out and got Dwight Howard, they got better. They had Chandler Parsons, this year they got Ariza. The NBA is about talent.
"All these guys who run these organizations who talk about analytics, they have one thing in common: They're a bunch of guys who ain't never played the game, they never got the girls in high school, and they just want to get in the game."
Morey was named Rockets GM in 2007 and founded the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which annually brings together analytically-minded executives, researchers, media members and fans. Houston has been on the forefront of offensive strategy in the NBA, gearing its approach around three-pointers, high-percentage looks in the basket area and free throws while cutting down on mid-range jumpers.
Each of the last three title-winners in the NBA have credited analytics along the way. In 2011, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban publicly lauded coach Rick Carlisle's use of analytics. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used analytics to build an ultra-efficient offense around LeBron James and hone Chris Bosh's shot selection. Although Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has often joked about his lack of technological savvy, his 2014 championship team was a darling of the stats community, ranking No. 1 in three-point percentage, No. 1 in fewest three-pointers allowed, No. 1 in assists, No. 2 in True Shooting percentage, No. 6 in offensive efficiency and No. 3 in defensive efficiency, even though every Spurs player averaged fewer than 30 minutes a night.